The Queens of Jamaican Dancehall
The New York Times
Editorial
Kingston, Jamaica
2019


“IT’S A HARD-CORE EXPLICIT CONTENT. That is really the definition of dancehall,” said Spice, one of the reigning queens of the genre, which blossomed in Jamaica in the 1970s and is in the midst of a global revival. Known for its raunchy, sexual lyrics and explicitly provocative style, dancehall has long been dominated by men. In the ’80s and ’90s, female artists like Lady Saw, Sister Nancy and Patra were a rarity, using their music to challenge social and religious norms.


Now, many more women are making dancehall music, and they’re beginning to change the language of the genre — taking on topics like queer love and colorism.


Meet four women redefining dancehall today.


.
Lauren Du Graf

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The Queens of Jamaican Dancehall
The New York Times

In dancehall, the woman asserts control over how her body is represented,” said Carolyn Cooper, the author of “Sound Clash: Jamaican Dancehall Culture at Large” and a professor at the University of the West Indies. “She controls who gets to touch and who can only look.
It’s hard-core explicit content. That is really the definition of dancehall.
Spice
In dancehall you have a lot of things that’s like taboo topics. The men are allowed to say what they want to unapologetically. I sing about topics that women want to talk about.
Ishawna
People might bash me, but I’m showing people they should be free in their own life. I’m not standing for the things they stood for. If I want to do it, I’m going to do it. This generation is like that.
Shenseea
Pack up an leave if yuh nuh want mi / Cuz mi honestly rather be lonely / Yuh nav nuh time fi me, yuh all fi yuh self, I see
Jada Kingdom, Lyrics from “Love Situations”